What are actually carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are nutrients that fulfill different relevant functions in the body. They are also incorporated into the body through food. But do you know what role they play and how important they are in the diet?

While there is much controversy regarding their consumption, there is sufficient scientific evidence to support the benefits they can provide.

Carbohydrates, also known as glucides, or , are a broad group of organic molecules that represent the primary biological form of energy storage and consumption. They are the most abundant organic compounds in nature and also the most consumed by humans.

They are composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, but they can also contain other bioactive elements such as nitrogen. There are those carbohydrates that are small in size and known as “simple”, such as glucose and fructose present in sugar or honey.

However, in nature, those of the “complex” type predominate. These are formed by the union of many carbohydrate molecules that are grouped into starches. In this way, they constitute the body’s energy reserve. In addition, they also form cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin, which give them their structure. It is the latter that are known as dietary fibre.

Carbohydrates in food: where to find them?

When it comes to carbohydrates, most people associate them with foods made from refined flours, such as baked goods. However, it is not known that this nutrient is an integral part of many commonly consumed foods. Below, we detail in which foods they are present.

  • simple carbohydrates and pectin: honey, sugar, fruits.
  • dietary fiber: whole grains and legumes.
  • starches; potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cassava.
  • cellulose and hemicellulose: vegetables.

In addition, due to their structure, carbohydrates determine the functionality and sensory characteristics of foods, providing organoleptic properties such as taste, color, viscosity and texture.

Importance of carbohydrates in the diet

While it is very easy to incorporate them through various foods, the importance they have in the human diet is determined by the following:

  • They represent the main source of energy for the living organism.
  • They are indispensable for the brain, since this organ depends on this macronutrient and needs 130 grams per day.
  • They are essential for the red blood cells and the kidney.
  • Dietary fibre performs important gastrointestinal functions by improving intestinal transit, helping to lower cholesterol and also helping to maintain blood sugar levels.